AUBURN, NS - Instilling a passion for Gaelic culture in Kings County students is a big motivator for retired teacher Don Hyslop.
Hyslop has always had a passion for the Scottish culture. Before he retired in 2004, he held concerts each May with his students at Pine Ridge Middle School to celebrate Gaelic Awareness Month in Nova Scotia.
“Back then, we even had former premier Rodney MacDonald perform,” he says.
Since his retirement, Hyslop is still sharing his passion with students at both Pine Ride and West Kings through lunchtime Gaelic club that meets once a week during lunchtime at each school. There are eight students at West Kings and seven at Pine Ridge who participate regularly.
“Although much more difficult to organize as someone who is a retired teacher, it is something the students wanted to try and there are so many people in the Valley of Scottish heritage who don’t often get an opportunity to celebrate their culture so it is well worth the effort,” he said.
“The students learn some basic conversation as well as some Gaelic songs and, as a volunteer activity, only the ones who are very interested take part and stick with it.”
This spring, the students will showcase their love of all things Scots with a return of the concerts Hyslop used to hold more than a decade ago. Scottish Gaelic Heritage Night will be held on May 25 by the West Kings Gaelic Club, in partnership with the Pine Ridge Gaelic Club and the West Kings Student Council.
The line-up for the evening covers many aspects of Nova Scotia’s Scottish culture, Hyslop says. Performers include the 14 Wing Greenwood Pipes and Drums - well known throughout the Valley for their performances during the summer months – which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary as a group. The Amethyst Scottish Dancers from Halifax are also slated to perform.
Vocalist Lewis MacKinnon, who is the executive director of Gaelic Affairs in the province, will also attend. MacKinnon was nominated for an ECMA in the traditional/roots category for his album A’Seo. He has performed in Scottish Gelic, English and Irish across Atlantic Canada and New England and was artist-in-residence for Celtic Colours in 2010. In 2011, he was the first non-Scottish bard (poet laureate) to receive the Scottish Bardic Crown.
Local talent will also be featured, with Michael Trehan performing a solo set on the pipes. The Nictaux resident is a student at Middleton High School and only took up piping three years ago, but is already turning heads in the piping world. Besides playing with the Greenwood band, he performed last summer with the 78th Highlanders at the Halifax Citadel and entertained cruise ship passengers on the Halifax waterfront.
The Pine Ridge Middle School Gaelic singers will also entertain with a selection of “puirt a beul” or mouth music pieces that are sure to get feet tapping, while the West Kings Gaelic Chorus will share their love of Gaelic songs by performing tunes made popular by the Rankin Family and Mary Jane Lamond.
“I would encourage people to attend not only if they are of Scottish descent but if they are interested in good entertainment for a really family type price,” Hyslop said. “We have acts other than our school performers that are professional in their field. It is a one-night-only performance.”
Tickets are $5 and are now on sale at both schools, or can be purchased from members of the Pine Ridge or West Kings Gaelic clubs or members of the West Kings Student Council. Only 250 tickets are available.
“Don’t hesitate to get yours, the show is sure to sell out quickly,” Hyslop added.
A portion of the proceeds will go to support the West Kings Student Council.
Did you know?
May marks Gaelic Awareness Month in Nova Scotia. It’s aimed at honouring Gaels and promoting and celebrating language, culture and community. Gaelic language and culture have been a part of Nova Scotia since the late 1700s. Passed down ‘o ghlùin gu glùin’ (literally ‘from knee to knee’) for generations, the presence of Gaelic has long contributed to the province. Almost one-third of Nova Scotians today can trace their roots back to Gaelic-speaking settlers from the Islands and Highlands of Scotland. Many are involved in cultural activities that enrich communities and help define Nova Scotia as a unique place in the world.
Source: Province of Nova Scotia